Do you compost? Rinse and separate your recycling? Yeah, getting rid of garbage is a pain. Unless your garbage is nuclear waste. Getting rid of that is apparently a production of epic proportions.
YouTuber Robert Fullone couldn’t help but notice this colossal convoy and posse of dudes in orange vests taking up both lanes of his street, so he was kind enough to give the internet a little tour of what he says is a nuclear waste disposal outfit working out of “West Valley,” which I assume is referring to West Valley Nuclear Services near Buffalo, New York.
After nuclear fuel has spent years in a reactor generating heat which becomes electricity, it ends up being “spent” and no longer yields power but remains very hot and radioactive. At that point it gets put into a cask like the one in this video and eventually buried at a designated dumping facility somewhere around the country.
(Update:) I originally thought that waste could be held and kept at almost any of the nuclear power facilities around the U.S., but large quantities of waste like what we seem to be looking at in this truck are only taken to a few specific spots. Steve Kerekes of the Nuclear Energy Institute clarified that for me and said this particular haul from West Valley is likely headed to a place in Idaho or South Carolina.
The storage of nuclear waste is, as you might imagine, a complicated issue. A 2011 study by the Government Accountability Office states that the U.S. had about 13,000 metric tons of nuclear waste to content with at that time, the storage of which was only being handled by five states and the U.S. Navy.
Kerekes forwarded me this updated map of the Department Of Energy’s Defense Nuclear Facilities:
What you can see clearly in the video is that the convoy carrying needs a pretty wide berth.
I have never seen so many axles on a trailer. This thing looks like it could be a little cousin of NASA’s Crawler-Transporter, the glacial vehicle used to transport space shuttles on the ground.
The sticker on the side of that tank, besides the one that says “RADIOACTIVE,” puts the total weight of it at just under 300,000 pounds. For context, a typical big rig doesn’t weigh more than 80,000 pounds. Guess that’s why this truck and trailer have so many wheels. (More wheels basically means more load-bearing ability. That’s why dually pickup trucks exist.)
Making the rules for how this stuff is shipped falls under the United States Regulatory Commission’s jurisdiction. I initially accidentally cited the Nuclear Information Resource Service on that, but of course that is a non-governmental organization that observes and reports on the nuclear power industry.
Theoretically you don’t have to worry if this truck pulls through your neighborhood, since the radioactive material is well shielded. (Though the actual safety of this industry and its logistical operations are debated.) But it does look like you will be sitting in traffic for a while.